Polytechnic offers genomic sequencing training

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has taken a step forward into the brave new world of genomic sequencing.

The province-wide polytechnic is offering training in genomic sequencing thanks to the installation of new genome sequencing equipment acquired through a partnership with Genome Prairie.

Genome Prairie supplied the equipment through a program known as Genome360.

The program provides organizations in the prairie region with access to the latest sequencing equipment.

Its goal is to enhance and disseminate genomics knowledge and work with educators to ensure a skilled workforce in the field.

Mike Cey, president and chief executive officer of Genome Prairie, said the installation of new equipment at colleges in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is part of an effort to “democratize” genomic knowledge and ensure that the prairie region has access to a new generation of trained experts.

Another Genome360 partnership provided similar equipment last year to the University of Saint Boniface in Winnipeg.

In an interview with The Western Producer, Cey said training and access to equipment are keys to ensuring that genomics are used to their full potential.

The equipment, valued at nearly $750,000, was supplied to Saskatchewan Polytechnic with funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada.

“By democratizing access to genomics and helping to facilitate the training of the next generation of highly qualified personnel, we are excited to see the creativity of Saskatchewan people unleashed in advancing the use of genomics” said Cey.

“We are limited only by our imagination and our willingness to explore what this emerging field has to offer us.”

The new equipment consists of two bench-top sequencing machines that can examine the genetic makeup of plant or animal material and identify genetic markers that are associated with traits of specific interest.

Kevin Rogers, director of applied research at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, said the new equipment will be used to train students and conduct applied research.

The equipment will supplement training to students in two Saskatchewan Polytechnic programs — bioscience and medical diagnostics.

“It does improve the employability of those students because anybody who’s got this type of equipment within their own lab facilities would obviously prefer to have students who have been trained already,” said Rogers.

He described the equipment as cutting-edge technology that can be used in a wide range of research applications.

The equipment, already installed in Sask Polytechnic’s Bioscience Applied Research Centre (BARC), will provide unique research and data analysis opportunities and training in genome sequencing methods and equipment operation.

The equipment is also portable and could potentially be taken on the road for demonstrations at Saskatchewan high schools and to conduct remote research.

Rogers said the equipment will support a variety of applied research projects, including one that aims to learn more about the genetic makeup of sturgeon populations in the North Saskatchewan River system.

“We’re not going to be doing crop development work like they do at the (University of Saskatchewan) but we will undoubtedly be doing some work” in plant genetics.

Rogers said advances in genomics technology have resulted in smaller and more efficient pieces of equipment that require less lab space.

“It used to be that for this type of equipment, you needed really large pieces,” he said.

“Now, it’s literally down to a desktop machine, something the size of an inkjet printer.”

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